By Elisabeth Hellenbroich

On the 7th of December a more than two hours long video conference took place between US President Biden and Russian President Putin.  According to the official press releases that were issued by the White House and by the Kremlin, it is clear that the discussion between the two presidents was more fruitful than very thin press coverage by the European press reflected.

According to the White House press briefing President Joseph Biden Jr. held a “secure video call with President Vladimir Putin of Russia to discuss a range of issues on the U.S. Russia agenda. President Biden voiced the deep concerns of the United States and our European Allies about Russia’s escalation of forces surrounding Ukraine and made clear that the U.S. and our Allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation. President Biden reiterated his support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and called for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy. The two presidents tasked their teams to follow up, and the U.S. will do so in close coordination with allies and partners. The presidents also discussed the U.S. -Russia dialogue on Strategic Stability, a separate dialogue on ransomware, as well as joint work on regional issues such as Iran.”

More detailed was the official government release from the Kremlin. It reported that “the two presidents discussed the outcomes of the June 2021 Russian- American summit in Geneva, noting the importance of consistent progress in implementing the agreements reached at the highest level and preserving the Geneva spirit when discussing bilateral relations or other issues that may arise between Russia and the United States. (…) In this context the presidents recalled the fact that the two countries were allied during World War II. They emphasized the need to remember the sacrifices made at that time, while the allied relationship must set an example for establishing contacts and working together in today’s reality.(…) Joseph Biden in turn focused on what he described as threatening movements of Russia troops near the Ukrainian border and outlined the sanctions the United States and its allies would be ready to impose should the situation escalate any further.(…) Russia is eager to obtain reliable, legally binding guarantees ruling out the eventuality of NATO’s eastward expansion and the deployment of offensive weapons systems to the countries neighboring Russia.”(…) The two leaders agreed to instruct their representatives to engage in meaningful consultations on these sensitive matters. This included discussion about the JCPOA in respect to the Iranian nuclear program and the upcoming discussions to be held in Vienna; as well as bilateral discussions, including challenges like the scaling down of diplomatic missions as well as emphasizing that diplomatic relations between the two countries could be back to normal. It was emphasized that the “presidents expressed in view of their special responsibility for international security and stability, Russia and the United Stated will continue their dialogue and the necessary contacts. Overall the conversation took place in a sincere and business- like atmosphere.”

It’s worthwhile to refer to a recent Valdai Seminar transmitted by the Valdai Discussion Club three weeks ago, which featured statements from the Russian deputy foreign Minister Alexander Grushko and leading NATO representatives – including former NATO General Secretary Robertson as well as Thomas Graham from the CFR. The line given out by Grushko was that there are growing imbalances between NATO and Russia as well as a degradation of Arms control and an advancing of NATO infrastructure near the Russian border; that Moscow considered the emergence of western military infrastructure in Ukraine as expression of NATO pushing forward its expansion to the Russian Border, while all meaningful channels of dialogue between Russia and NATO had been brought to a halt. He noted as an example that from Estonia air jets with weapons could reach St Petersburg within 10 minutes.  At this event various senior NATO representatives expressed the necessity to have more dialogue in order to understand Russia’s demand for security guarantees. One should keep in mind that at the June summit in Geneva the two world powers US /Russia had agreed to deescalate the Ukraine crisis on the basis of Minsk II and look for a solution between the two conflicting parties.

“Talking on Eyes level”

On this background attention should be paid to a public appeal that was published in several websites (such as “post@johannes-varwik.de” or “www-deutsch-russisches-forum.de”). It was signed by high ranking European strategic and military representatives. Under the title “Get out of the Escalation Spiral! For a new beginning in the Relationship with Russia” (5.12.21), the appeal urged that new political steps should be initiated in order to strengthen the dialogue with Russia on all levels, with the aim to bring about peace and détente in Europe. It was signed by two dozen of representatives from Germany: Among them  former German Ambassador to Russia and NATO Ulrich Brandenburg( 2007-2010); former Ambassador Hans -Dieter Heumann, President of the Federal Academy for Security Policy (2011-2015); former  Ambassador Hellmut Hoffmann, permanent representative of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Geneva Disarmament Conference (2009-2013); former Ambassador Heiner Horsten, permanent representative of the Federal Republic of Germany at the OSCE in Vienna (2008-2012) as well as General Klaus Naumann a.D., former General Inspector of  the German Federal Army (1991-96) and chairman of the NATO Military Committee (1996-99), as well as several scientists from Institutes for Peace and Conflict research.

The signers emphasized that they “observe with great concern the accelerating escalation in respect to our relation with Russia. We are threatened to get into a situation, where war is becoming possible. There is nobody who could profit from such a situation and it is neither in our nor in Russia’s interest. Therefore what counts now is to break through this escalation spiral. The aim is to get NATO as well as Russia out of the “confrontationist course.”  The signers call for a policy which is based on “Real-political Interests.” They underlined that Russia feels challenged by Western Policy and seeks to preserve its sphere of influence on an eye to eye level with the US within the post- soviet space.”  Given the dangers inherent in a sanction and economic spiral, the authors suggest that “NATO should actively make a step toward Russia and try to force through a de-escalation of the situation.”

They suggest a series of high- level meetings that should be based on the following parameters:  A high level conference, that on the basis of the continued validity of the Helsinki Final Act (1975), the Charta of Paris 1990 and the Budapest agreement from 1994 – in a different format and on different levels, should convene and consult on several levels how to “revitalize the European Security Architecture!” They demand that the two sides renounce from military escalation as well as from “stationing additional troops and establish infrastructure on both sides along the Borders of the Russian Federation.” They furthermore demand complete transparency in respect to military manoeuvers as well as dialogue to take place between military experts in order to minimize risks.

The appeal urges that the NATO-Russia dialogue should be revitalized on a political and military level without preconditions. This should include a new approach for “European arms control.” After the elimination of agreements such as the INF Treaty, the CFE Treaty and Open Sky Treaty and in light of Russian troop concentration near the Ukrainian border, it is of primary importance to take more initiatives in order to create more transparency as well as confidence by strengthening contacts in the political and military level as well as to stabilize regional conflict situations. Lastly the signers urge that “economic cooperation could be an important contribution for the European stability.”

What lesson can be learned: Deutsche Gesellschaft e.V. gives Award to Horst Teltschik

On the background of the above-mentioned appeal, one should recall that 2014 in a widely publicized appeal (Die Zeit), former chairman of the Munich Security Conference Dr. Horst Teltschik, together with former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Antje Vollmer from the Green Party, as well as Andrea von Knoop, Chairwoman of the Russian- German Chamber of Commerce, under the title “Again War in Europe? Not in our name” demanded a series of measures to de-escalate the strategic situation and reinforce dialogue with Russia.

Noteworthy is a recent award ceremony that was organized by the “Deutsche Gesellschaft e.V.” in Berlin on the 9th of November this year.  At the event an award was given to former Chancellor Kohl advisor as well as former chairman of the Munich Security Conference, Dr. Horst Teltschik, for his merit concerning German reunification and European understanding. The laudatory speech was given by Wolfgang Thierse (SPD), former President of the German Federal Parliament.

According to Thierse it is relevant to look at Teltschiks biography, which makes clear the origin of his particular understanding concerning Eastern Europe.  Born in 1940, in small village in Northern Moravia, the family during World War II had to flee to Bavaria. After finishing school and army service, Teltschik began to study at the Free University Berlin (1962) where he became special scientific assistant to Professor Richard Löwenthal at the Otto Suhr Institute. In 1972 he served as senior Ministerial Council in the State Chancellery of Rhineland/ Palatine under then Minister President Helmut Kohl, who later in Bonn gave Teltschik the responsibility as chairman of the Office of the CDU/CSU Faction. According to Thierse, Teltschik was a “real man of ideas.” When Kohl became Chancellor Teltschik chaired the “Department for foreign and inner German relations.”  As deputy head of the Chancellery and close advisor to Kohl, he was member of “Kohl’s Kitchen cabinet.” He was seen by many as “shadow deputy foreign minister” who at that time maintained special relations with people like President Mitterrand and General Secretary Gorbachev, as well as special relations with Nikolai S. Portugalov, KGB Officer and advisor to Gorbachev. Under him Moscow’s new “German Policy” got initiated.

According to Thierse, what was legendary was the “10-point plan” from the 28th November 1989, which was largely due to Teltschik. It “caused a political earthquake in Bonn. Kohl not only surprised parliamentarians, but also his coalition partner (FDP).”   The “10 point plan” called for “confederate structures”, an “electrifying” formula. At that time there was no thinking about reunification, since too many things were unclear.   The “10-point plan” essentially reacted to the quickly transforming situation in the streets of the GDR and the international developments. The dynamics of the situation, also within the GDR, was that the majority of the citizens in the GDR wanted reunification.  The reality was then that from the opening of the Berlin wall (9.11. 89) till German reunification this “process only lasted 329 days.” A lot of foreign political obstacles which were located in Moscow had to be removed.  “Given the immense negotiation skills of the ‘shadow foreign minister’ Kohl and his advisor Teltschik travelled to Moscow for negotiations, without Foreign Minister Genscher. There was a breakthrough.  Already in February 1990 Gorbachev de facto recognized the self- determination right of the Germans. According to Thierse the allegiance to Eastern Europe had to do with what Teltschik himself once wrote: ‘The fact that my family since the 14th Century had lived in Moravia and that I was born there, gave me a greater closeness to Central and Eastern Europe.”  While German historian Andreas Rödder once called the award winner someone who had a “strategic and passionate political thinking,” and who during the reunification process engaged in a policy that was more optimistic and unbiased than the policy made by bureaucrats and diplomats. According to Thierse what characterizes Teltschik up to this day is “sensitivity and tremendous political instinct.”

Former President Gorbachev, as close personal friend of Teltschik, in a birthday greeting at the occasion of Teltschiks 80th birthday in June 2020, wrote about Teltschik that he always appreciated him as a man full of energy, characterized by his natural intelligence, a brilliant education and responsible attitude that made him become one of the “leading political personalities of Germany. (…) Destiny brought us together in a historical period. The world was facing a nuclear catastrophe at the time and this threat was very real. The impetus for change, which I am still proud of, at the time came from Moscow. In the context of this process we could together make a decisive step toward disarmament. It led to the end of the Cold war…. Germany’s Reunification was reached by consensus and peacefully.”

Russians and Germans should be friends

In his acceptance speech, Teltschik underlined that is was his personal historical experience of the war that had taught him that there should ‘never be war again!, never again should there be fascism and communism!  Kohl’s proposals which he helped formulate, made it possible according to Teltschik, that a decisive breakthrough occurred in the bilateral negotiations with Moscow in the 1990ies.  The Soviet leadership was offered negotiations for a treaty between a unified Germany and the USSR with clear security policy guarantees, still negotiated before reunification, but signed and ratified afterwards. This became the so called “Treaty about good neighborhood, partnership and cooperation” on the 9th November1990, signed by Chancellor Kohl and President Gorbachev and ratified by the federal parliament on the 25th  of April 1991.”  Teltschik recalled that at that time the SU was confronted with a huge economic and supply crisis and looked for support from the German chancellor. He underlined that it was a “stroke of luck in history” that after the opening of the wall Germany could get peacefully reunified only after 329 days. That not a single shot was fired. 500.000 Soviet soldiers, 380.000 from the GDR, peacefully returned during the period of four years from Central Europe to Russia. “The high point of peaceful reunification was in November 1990 the signing of the Paris Charta for a new Europe – signed by all 34 heads of states of the CSCE and OSCE. It was based on the vision of an All European Peace and Security Order from Vancouver to Vladivostok, the Common European house, as Gorbachev called it that would guarantee all inhabitants the same security.” What was at stake then, Teltschik emphasized, was the future of all of Europe and a new World order and an answer to this is today even more urgent than ever!”

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